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Baptiste-Cornelis tells why she quit: I can’t work with Govt of ‘political gimmicks’
Former T&T Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Therese Baptiste-Cornelis says she resigned on September 16 because the People’s Partnership had become a government of “political gimmicks and misdirection.” Baptiste-Cornelis, who served as Minister of Health from 2010 and was later posted as ambassador to the UN, after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s first Cabinet reshuffle in June 2011, discussed her resignation in an e-mail to the T&T Guardian yesterday.
“I accepted the challenge to be part of the PP Government, as I believed it was a way to serve my nation, not as a test in political gimmicks and misdirection, which it turned out to be,” Baptiste-Cornelis added. Her resignation came after controversy over her remarks in a June 28 YouTube video of an address she gave in Europe, in which she spoke about her term as health minister, how she met her husband online and her friendship with the Prime Minister.
Baptiste told the T&T Guardian she resigned “because what the PP Government currently stands for is greatly different from what I had believed it to represent.” She said she never had any “vested interest in politics. Never did.” Baptiste-Cornelis said she accepted an offer to serve the nation from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
“The method of service was changed in 2011 and again I accepted, as I always sought the interest of my fellow nationals, and I believed I could be of value in Geneva, given my business acumen, knowledge and experience,” Baptiste-Cornelis added. She said on July 26, she contacted Persad-Bissessar asking for an update on whether or not she was being removed as ambassador. She did not reveal the PM’s response.
Baptiste-Cornelis said two days later, on July 28, a video of her speaking “to 17 students goes viral and is falsely portrayed on local media as a diplomatic speech to diplomats.” She said on July 31, then acting Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan called her for the first time. The call went to her voicemail but she returned it promptly, she said.
“Rambachan indicates that the ambassador has upset the children of Trinidad and Tobago, saying they did not all know the words of the national anthem. He reprimands me for calling politicians liars,” Baptiste-Cornelis said. She said she told Rambachan her mother had said that “politics is filled with liars.”
Baptiste-Cornelis told the T&T Guardian: “Rambachan says my speech has destroyed everything that the PP has tried to build in Trinidad and Tobago over the last two years. He says the worst part is that I am the subject of editorials.” Baptiste-Cornelis said she told him many others had also been the subject of editorials, and asked why he had allowed the media to “falsely portray (the) speech as a diplomatic statement to diplomats.”
She said Rambachan sidestepped the question. She said she then enquired from Rambachan why none of her achievements in Geneva had ever been made public in T&T, despite releases being sent to him as required. She said: “Rambachan says that things happen for a reason.” Baptiste-Cornelis said she told Rambachan he “already had his mind made up, so he should do what he thought he needed to do.”
She said he quickly ended the telephone conversation. Baptiste-Cornelis said on August 3, Persad-Bissessar wrote to her thanking her for her great service in Geneva, saying that she would be reposted to headquarters in Port-of-Spain. Former national security minister John Sandy has been appointed to replace Baptiste-Cornelis as Ambassador and Representative to the Permanent Mission of the Republic of T&T to the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.
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